Laura Benanti Biography

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Birth Name: Laura Benanti
Born: 07/15/1979
Birth Place: Kinelon, New Jersey, USA

Laura Benanti was born on July 15, 1979 in Kinnelon, NJ and raised in New York City. Her parents were both actors; her father, Martin Vidnovic, performed on Broadway, as did her mother, Linda Wonneberger. After her parents divorced, she moved in with her mother and psychotherapist stepfather, Salvatore Benanti. Given her parents' background, it was no surprise that Benanti herself was drawn to musical theater. After graduating from high school in 1997, Benanti set her sights on Broadway. At age 19, she auditioned for the part of Liesl in the Broadway revival of the classic 1959 musical "The Sound of Music," but was cast instead as a nun. A year later, Benanti took over the lead role of Maria in the production, playing opposite Richard Chamberlain. It was not long before her talents earned her critical acclaim. She received two Tony Award nominations for Best Featured Actress in a Musical; first, in 2000 for her performance in "Swing!" (1999), followed by 2002 for that year's revival of "Into the Woods."

Benanti's Tony nod her role in "Into the Woods" was bittersweet for the actress, who fractured her neck doing a pratfall on stage. As a result of a misdiagnosis and of reportedly being asked by producers to stay mum about her injury, she tried to keep up her performances but began missing shows due to severe pain. After enduring criticism that she was a "faker," she was eventually let go and her role given to another actress. Benanti underwent spinal surgery for her injury and by early 2003, she was back on Broadway in a revival of "Nine" as a sultry movie star who inspired Antonio Banderas' womanizing character. In 2008, Benanti earned much-deserved praise and a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance in the 2007 Broadway revival of "Gypsy," in which she portrayed the gawky and neglected Louise, a young woman who transforms into the seductive stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. Benanti also received glowing praise and another Tony nod for her role in the musical "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (2010), based on the 1988 Academy Award-nominated film directed by Pedro Almodovar.

While Benanti impressed onstage, she also appeared in a number of mainstream television and film projects. She starred on the comedy series "Starved" as an aspiring singer with an eating disorder, and appeared opposite her "Nine" co-star Banderas in the drama feature "Take the Lead." In 2008, Benanti had a recurring role on the series "Eli Stone," about a thirty-something lawyer (Jonny Lee Miller) who starts having out-of-this-world visions that lead him to perform unusual actions. She played Eli's college friend who is trying to raise an autistic child. In 2011, Benanti was cast in her first major television role on the highly anticipated drama series "The Playboy Club." She played a smart talking Bunny who is trying to assert her dominance over the club's younger starlets. Before "The Playboy Club" premiered, some watchdog groups and network affiliates banned the show for its racy themes. In spite of the controversy, some of the show's stars spoke up against the criticism and defended the show's portrayal of headstrong, trailblazing women. That same year, Benanti was reportedly tapped to grace the cover of an issue of Playboy magazine.




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